Why are dog walkers so expensive?

…is a question you’ll often see online. So for owners and potential clients who found this article, let me explain, and for the pro dog walkers reading this, bookmark and feel free to share 🙂

How many hours per day can a dog walker walk?

We in the Uk typically expect the working day to be around 8 hours however dog walkers cannot/could not physically walk for 8 hours a day in addition to driving between houses and collecting the dogs (which is technically unpaid time).

And if an owner is out of the house working, they would usually request that their dog’s day is broken up around the halfway point with a walk, so very few owners want a walk before 11am or after 3pm.

For these reasons, pro dog walkers tend to do 3 group walks per day between 10.30 am and 3 pm

As a rule of thumb, every one hour walk takes around 90 minutes from the day with collecting and dropping off.

Pro dog walkers are usually limited by their insurance to walking 6 dogs at once, however in reality most pro walkers rarely take more than 4.

In addition to the walks, a pro walker might do some pop ins around their core lunchtime groups, either puppy pop ins before and after walks, or cat visits morning and evening.

So a typical day might look like this;

  • 8am Feed fluffy cat
  • 8.30 Feed another cat
  • 10am Puppy pop in
  • 11am group walk 4 dogs
  • 12.30 group walk 4 dogs
  • 2pm group walk 4 dogs
  • 3.30pm puppy pop in
  • 6pm Feed fluffy cat
  • 6.30pm Feed another cat

As you can see, it’s an 11 hour day for which they’re only being paid for around 5 hours of it (3 x 1 hour dog walks and 6x 20 minute pop ins) The rest of the time is either travel or dead time between finishing one job and starting the next.

So what does that day look like in terms of income?

A cat pop in is typically priced around £10 in my local area, puppy visits will cost a similar amount and an hour dog walk is roughly £12.

12 dogs per day @ £12 = £144 Plus 6 pop ins @ £10 = £60

A grand total of £204 per day.

So that 11 hour day nets them £18.54 per hour.

Yes, they’re not working a few of those hours but they also don’t have the opportunity to work elsewhere in those gaps, and with the rest of the time travelling between client’s houses, so I’m definitely going to class it as an 11 hour day and not just 5 hours.

With the current minimum wage amount at £10.42, it’s looking pretty healthy to be a self-employed dog walker in the UK right now. But hang on… what about expenses?

just the dog walker

What expenses does a dog walker have?

Vehicle charges

This is the main expense for any dog walker. Fuel, tyres and repairs can eat into your income. Rural dog walkers have it far worse as clients are spread across a wider geographical area, so it costs more to get to them and it takes longer too, meaning their average hourly wages drop from both extra expenses.

If you’re lucky enough to work in an urban area without a vehicle (Yes, it’s possible) then you’re saving on these expenses however it’s highly likely that you’re not walking 4 dogs at once so your hourly wage balances out the potential savings.

Walkers usually group their walks geographically and work within a 10 mile radius on average, but that can still mean driving around 10 miles per walk (5miles to collect and 5 to drop off) plus the extra miles clocked with the pop in visits. This can easily equate to 50 miles a day.

The HMRC (Tax man!) allows self employed people to claim 45p per mile travelled for business. This 45p covers fuel, repairs and all running costs, such as insurance, tax and MOT fees.

FUN FACT: This 45p a mile figure has not increased since 2011 when petrol cost £1.10 per litre.

So a 50 mile trip each day @45p a mile = £22.50

Business Insurance

Business insurance rates will vary depending on the amount of cover taken and the type of cover taken out but should cost no more than £1 per working day (around £260)

Vehicle insurance

Adding business mileage to your car insurance can cost extra, but this is already taken into account when you claim the 45p a mile allowance in your expenses.

Breakdown insurance.

Can you imagine breaking down with 4 clients dogs stuck in the car/van, especially on a hot day. It’s a nightmare scenario that no one wants to experience so they need a good, fast breakdown service to come and transport them and the dogs to where they should be.

At around £130 a year, let’s call it 50p per working day.

Poop bags

So many poo bags! A roll of 50 costs £1, 12 dogs quite often have 2 poops each so that’s half a roll gone before you even do your puppy pop in. Let’s call it 50p a day.


Not an essential but those dogs are going to come back faster when you let them off for a run if you do have some quality dog treats with you. 50p a day.


Allowable expenses are any items you buy solely for the business and that you would not have bought unless you ran your own business. Yep, you might get through 1 pair of walking boots a year but would you get through 4?

At £50 a pair, times 3 per year (you don’t get to claim for the pair you would have bought anyway, just the extras) let’s call it 50p a day.


This includes any adverts either online, in papers (yes, they still have them) or in those little booklets you get through the letterbox.

It also includes any sign writing on your vehicle, business cards and leaflets.

And… it includes any workwear that you have printed or embroidered with your business name.

A few t shirts, topping up your supply of business cards and paying your website hosting fees can easily mount up to a few hundred pounds. Let’s call it £1 a day.

First aid certificate

It’s advisable to update your skills at least once every 2 years. The canine first aid course itself is usually between £50 and £100 and taken in your own time on a weekend. As an average day is worth £200 income to us, plus the course fee, let’s call it 50p a day over the two year period.

DBS certificate

DBS (previously CRB (criminal records bureau) check) should be updated regularly and costs £25 for a basic check. If we do it yearly that’s 10p per working day on average.

So all of our expenses come to a daily figure of £27.10

But they can claim back expenses, can’t they?

They report expenses but this only reduces their tax bill by 20% of the expense (see here for a full explanation of how claiming expenses works).

So for every £10 claimed in expenses, they pay £1 less tax, so it’s the equivalent of spending £9.

Example; If a dog walker drives 100 miles they can ‘claim’ a mileage rate of 45p per mile, so £45 in expenses. That reduces their tax bill by £9. So they don’t get the £45 back, they just reduce their expenditure by £9, they still paid out £36.

So looking at out figures so far, the income was £204 per day, and their expenses work out at £27.10 per day leaving £176.9 to pay tax on. An equivalent hourly rate of £16.08 (over that 11 hour day, and leaving them working 55 hours a week)

But wait…

Holidays and sickness

If you have an employer in the UK, your statutory annual leave allowance is 28 paid days of holiday time.

Self employed people have no paid holiday time so every day taken off of work means they lose money.

In our example they lose £204 per day. Over 28 days that equals £5712.

Divide that loss over the year of working weekdays only (approx 260) then that’s a daily loss of £22

This takes our daily income from £176 to £154, an hourly rate of £14

Would a little discount really hurt them?

Every £1 reduction per hour is the yearly equivalent of £260 if you book your walker for 5 walks a week. If they discount every dog on that walk by £1 that’s over £1k a year, if they do that for every walk then it’s £3k a year off their income.

How would you feel if your boss asked you to work for £3k a year less?

Why is your dog walker so expensive?

Truth is, they’re not.

They could be working a stress free job at minimum wage with paid holidays and very little responsibility. But for what equates to just a few pounds more per hour, and a lot more hours per week, they’ve got a great deal of responsibility keeping your dogs safe, happy and healthy day in and day out.

And you know what?

They absolutely love doing it.


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